Who doesn’t dream of having the perfect comeback? The witty quip? Dorothy Parker was famous for her bon mots and her celebrity in 1920s New York. In addition to being a member of the Algonquin Round Table—a group of artists that met for lunch every day for 10 years—she was the first female (and youngest) theater critic on Broadway and helped shape taste and style across America.
Born Dorothy Rothschild 125 years ago this month, on August 22, 1893, in Longbranch N.J., she sold her first poem to Vanity Fair. She also worked for and contributed to Vogue, The New Yorker, Life, Cosmopolitan and dozens of other magazines. Although she is remembered for her humor, it hid a fierce intellect and a writer capable of stark and brutal views of how women and minorities were treated in America. Even Parker’s attempted suicides, depression and struggles with alcohol provided her with bitterly humorous prose. Her romance with Chicago writer Charles MacArthur led to one of her famous quotes, "Take me or leave me; or, as is the usual order of things, both."
After the 1929 stock market crash, America lost its taste for New York glamour. Parker and many of her contemporaries, like Robert Benchley and F. Scott Fitzgerald, wound up in Hollywood writing for the movies in the 1930s and 1940s. Parker and her husband, Alan Campbell, worked on films like A Star Is Born.
Parker opposed prejudice and stupidity. For years she participated in protests for social causes, promoted racial equality and spoke against fascism. This gained the attention of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and she was blacklisted in Hollywood. After Campbell died in 1963, Parker lived another four years in New York, and on her death left the bulk of her estate to Martin Luther King, Jr.; later it went to the NAACP in hopes of advancing civil rights for all Americans.
Celebrate Dorothy Parker by reading about her life and work.
Complete Stories showcases Parker's fiction talents and includes “Big Blonde,” which won an O’Henry Award.
The Portable Dorothy Parker captures the full breadth of her writing abilities. It includes verse, criticism, essays and fiction.
The biography Dorothy Parker explores both her self-destructive personal life and her artistic vision. If you want more about Parker’s place among the Algonquin Round Table, try You Might As Well Live: The Life and Times of Dorothy Parker.
Released during the 100th anniversary of Parker's birth, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle stars a who's who cast of young Hollywood talent as members of the Algonquin Round Table. Watch it for a taste of New York during the roaring 1920s.